First Councillor of the German Federation to South Africa, Mrs Somers
MMC for Transport in the City of Johannesburg, Councillor Rehana Moosajee,
City planners, Transportation specialists, Environmentalists, Bloggers
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honoured to join you here today, as your comrade at the forefront of a Green Revolution that will change the manner in which we do business, build our cities, educate our youngsters about travel and of course, revolutionise the manner in which we get from A to B.
Sustainable, or green transport, refers to any means of transport with a low impact on the environment. This includes walking and cycling, transit orientated development, green vehicles, car sharing, and building or protecting urban transport systems that are fuel-efficient, space-saving and promote healthy lifestyles.
The impact of vehicle emissions on air quality and our environment is significant. Although developed countries with high car ownership and usage are the main culprits, they are taking steps to change their travel behaviour so that they reduce their negative impact on the environment. Countries in the developing world, such as ourselves in South Africa, are fast becoming high polluters and something needs to be done.
This meeting of minds today, in the shape of the Non-Motorised Transport Conference, is but one of several national, regional and international forums in which this government is sourcing best practise, with a view to craft policy and activate behavioural changes that will ensure we take Climate Action Now, in order to Save the Future.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The relationship between the Department of Environmental Affairs and the KfW Development Bank (on behalf of the German Government) has a history that is based on our common vision in reducing vehicle emissions in our cities. Our continued partnership with various arms of the public and private sector in Germany also recently included our participation in the 2012 Resilient Cities Conference in Bonn. This was the third global forum for learning, cooperation and networking on all aspects of urban resilience and adaptation to climate change. The learnings from our participation, such as the need for assessing risks and mainstreaming resilience into urban planning, are being shared here today in the various break-away sessions and presentation with local stakeholders.
We need to also take cognisance of the positive role our hosting of COP 17 made in raising awareness of our Greening Programme but also in mobilizing our partners to take action and make a difference. This has manifested in our cities, provinces and national departments approaching and promoting various greening initiatives in line with the Greening Programme.
Walking – the most basic urban transport mode for all short-to-medium length travel, and bicycling and bicycle-derived modes such as rickshaws, play an essential role in urban transport in most low- and middle income countries of the world. For people at the lowest rung of the income ladder, these modes of transport are a bread and butter issue that have a direct impact on survival. In our fellow BASIC countries, which are powerhouses in the developing world, the workers in low and middle income households were able to make the most of such means of transport due to their proximity to urban and industrial hubs.
However, South Africa’s inherited legacy has manifested a deliberate spatial distortion that left the majority of our citizens living in peri-urban areas, far removed not only from many basic services such as health care and government administration buildings, but also far removed from their places of work in factories, city centres, mines and suburban areas. This, coupled with a formal public transport system that was designed to serve the few, led to the majority of our citizens having to contend with long travel distances and unreliable, unsafe and fragmented public transport.
This has created a situation of an un-sustainable reliance on motor vehicles and the tendencies for many of our citizens to purchase cars as soon as they are able afford them, in order to meet their travel needs. As a result our cities are experiencing traffic congestion at levels not experienced previously in South Africa.
The increasing car usage, traffic congestion, poor public transport, long travel distances, poor land use and transport planning integration and our reliance on fossil fuels are amongst the reasons for our contribution to poor air quality. Theever deteriorating air quality also affects the health of our people and ultimately our quality of life, which invariably contributes to the negative impact of climate change.
In 2003, the Department of Transport conducted the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS).
· The survey found amongst others, that 2 259 million or 23, 0 per cent of the workforce indicated that they were walking to their places of work.
· Differentiated by area, figures showed that in metropolitanareas about 8,7 per cent were walking, whereas figures forurban and rural areas were much higher, respectively 24,0and 51,8 per cent.
· The survey also indicated that 90,6 per cent of the 7,5 millionlearners in rural areas were walking to schools and educational centers.
Despite all this, interests of non-motorized travellers tend to be systematically neglected in both investment, network management and infrastructure maintenance. Without continuous, dry, good-quality and secure infrastructure networks, people will not risk walking and bicycle travel.
Actions and opportunities to change travel behaviour and encourage a shift towards Non Motorised Transport (NMT) and public transport are being pursued by the different spheres of government in line with the Public Transport Strategy and Action Plan that was adopted by the Cabinet in 2007. Even though the aim of this strategy is to address access and mobility through an efficient and effective public transport network supported by NMT, the impacts go beyond just transport imperatives; they also contribute to the long term sustainability of the environment and our move toward a low carbon green economy as a country.
In our endeavours for increased levels of economic growth and job creation, we must be responsible by ensuring that our transport initiatives and interventions support access and mobility needs through sustainable and effective public transport and NMT programmes. We are fully supportive of the Public Transport Strategy and as the Department of Environmental Affairs we are also providing the basis for encouraging and promoting NMT especially - cycling through the KfW Development Bank’s (KfW) financial and technical assistance, and on behalf of the German Government.
This brings to the fore our partnership with KfW, the Department of Transport and the three pilot cities to receive support in promoting non-motorised transport -NMT- through the provision of funding and -technical support for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. This serves as a means of promoting NMT in a safe environment through the provision of dedicated NMT infrastructure. The contribution will begin to allow people to cycle in a safe environment while at the same time being a catalyst for change in travel behaviour that would reduce reliance on motorised transport for short trips.
The approach adopted in this programme has been to integrate NMT with the initiatives being undertaken by cities in their implementation of the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Networks, The complementary NMT infrastructure supports:
· Public transport;
· Access to public transport and socio-economic opportunities;
· Increasing the mobility desires of many people in a very inexpensive way
· Starts to reduce the reliance on motorised transport unnecessarily.
We as Government and our strategic partners are taking this opportunity to demonstrate South Africa’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy sources and ensuring broad climate change awareness. The first demonstration project was undertaken in eThekwini Metro in hosting the UNFCCC COP 17/CMP 7 last year, with an aim to promote safe, healthy, low cost and carbon free urban mobility by extending NMT infrastructure and establishing an integrated NMT network. The sites for the demonstration projects have been extended to include Polokwane Local Municipality and the City of Joburg.
I will fail in my duty if I do not also acknowledge the sterling work on NMT being done in Cape Town, Tshwane and other cities. I am also appreciative of the Shova Kalula initiative and its drive to distribute as many bicycles as possible and I think that it must be extended to our cities and a consideration must be given to providing an incentive type subsidy that would be twofold, namely:
· To make bicycles as a transport mode affordable; and
· To encourage more people to use bicycles as their transport mode of choice.
The experience of local and international experts, transport practitioners from our cities and environmentalists attending the conference is heartening. This body of knowledge and experience is the focus of this conference and it brings together the sharing of ideas and experiences from local and international experts.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome all international and local attendees and pray that you all encourage and benefit from one another through our individual and collective experiences, skills and expertise in NMT. When you return home and to your work, please reflect on the lessons learnt, but more importantly take the initiative to effect change by promoting and implementing NMT initiatives that over the long term will ensure that our Greening Programme benefits future generations.